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'The Red Lantern' signals the opening of a new cultural landmark

By Cheng Yuezhu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-04-04 08:50
The Guan Hanqing Grand Theater stages its opening performance, The Red Lantern, performed by the National Peking Opera Company in Baoding, Hebei province, on March 16.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The Guan Hanqing Grand Theater recently opened on the bank of the East Lake in Baoding, Hebei province. With an aerial view that resembles a conch shell, the theater is now bringing harmonious melodies to the local residents.

For its opening performance on March 16, the theater staged The Red Lantern (Hongdeng Ji), a modern Chinese opera performed by the National Peking Opera Company.

The Red Lantern is among one of the eight representative yangbanxi, a series of revolution-themed modern Peking Opera and ballet works produced during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76).

Using the performance techniques of traditional Peking Opera, it tells the story of how the Communist Party members risked their lives to transfer coded messages to the guerrilla forces during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

According to Jiang Qihu, an actor from the National Peking Opera Company, The Red Lantern was so well-known in the 1960s that almost everybody could sing a few lines from it.

"Since our company created the very first production, we have had three generations of the cast, each one being directly taught by the previous incumbents," Jiang said in a public lecture before the premiere. "We are going to present our inheritance through tonight's performance."

Bi Xiaoyang, laodan (elderly female role) performer from the company, says she has performed Granny Li, one of the main characters, almost a hundred times.

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